I rise to make some comments in regard to the Rural and Regional Committee’s report entitled Inquiry into Positioning the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline Region to Capitalise on New Economic Development Opportunities. I begin by thanking the many people who provided verbal and written submissions to the committee. We were blessed by the standard of contributions as we moved through the area.
I thank the secretariat staff, whose ongoing hard work and commitment made sure we adhered to our timetable and itinerary so that the report could be submitted here today. I mention in particular Lilian Topic, the executive officer; Juliette Elfick and Patrick O’Brien, research officers; and Eleanor Howe, the secretariat officer.
This inquiry was particularly important because it is not every day that you have a piece of infrastructure as vast as the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline. It is probably important to firstly reflect on the importance of that infrastructure. It just so happened that the terms of reference coincided with the completion of the pipeline. It was officially opened by Premier John Brumby in April 2010. It is one of Australia’s most significant water-saving projects. It is a $688 million project, it covers 8800 kilometres and it services 9000 farms and 34 townships across the region, which covers almost 10 per cent of the total geographic area of Victoria from the Grampians to the Murray River.
It has provided a sustainable water supply system to meet the needs of the Wimmera-Mallee region for the long term. As we have heard, the old open channel system was unsuitable with more than 8 per cent of the water wasted through seepage and evaporation. Of the up to 120 billion litres of water released from storages in the Grampians each year only 17 billion litres of water reached customers on farms and in towns.
This project will help drive growth in the region and provide a sustainable future for the regional community through the provision of a reliable, high-quality water source for farms, towns and businesses, 24 hours a day, seven days a week; 83 billion litres of water a year to the region’s water systems, including the Wimmera River and the Murray River system; 20 billion litres of additional growth water for regional economic development, including 2 billion litres which will service townships around Hamilton; a return in water savings to nominated recreational lakes and other water bodies in the region with high conservation value; and an allocation of water savings for urban, rural and commercial growth opportunities such as on-farm diversification and new industry, which were the areas on which the committee spent a considerable time.
This project provides water to a region that was facing an ongoing dilemma in respect of its agricultural base.
This new infrastructure will not only release much-needed high-quality water but will also provide ongoing life to the north-west of this state, building on this opportunity and securing further opportunities. This will be realised by the simple measures of enticing new investment as well as significant lateral thinking that will bring about new and bold initiatives. Correct policy settings, the right mix of people and skills, ongoing research and of course funding will mean that this region will reap the benefits of the pipeline. Already a number of initiatives have signified great optimism for the area, and I will take great pleasure in observing the gains of this region as it builds on the back of what is an important and, I dare say, groundbreaking piece of infrastructure, which will be well known not just in this state but in this country and beyond the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline.